South Burlington’s Mike Donoghue, who is first vice president of the New England First Amendment Coalition, recently helped train the Burlington City Council on the state’s Open Meeting Law, emphasizing the need for transparency within municipal government.

NEFAC, in a news release/blog post, noted the Burlington City Council sought the 90-minute training session after admitting it violated Vermont’s Open Meeting Law by improperly going behind closed doors with three protesters to discuss police personnel. The training session was part of the council’s efforts to cure the meeting violation.

Donoghue also serves as executive director of the Vermont Press Association, based at St. Michael’s College. He is a retired Staff Writer with the Burlington Free Press — current correspondent for The Other Paper — and has been called upon to offer testimony on improving state legislation, including laws on Open Meetings and Public Records.

He was joined for the training by ALCU of Vermont Senior Staff Attorney Lia Ernst, who also serves on the NEFAC Board, a news release noted.

“What we always encourage — whether it’s a question under the Open Meeting Law or the Public Records Act — is in case of doubt, always err on the side of more openness, more accountability, more transparency,” Ernst told the council.

“These two laws are absolutely critical to the functioning of our democracy,”

The training session followed a complaint filed by Seven Days that councilors violated the law on Sept. 8.

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